People may die or be seriously injured on Far North roads as government funding fails to keep pace with soaring road maintenance costs, deputy mayor Ann Court says.
Court told last Thursday's Far North District Council meeting in Kaikohe the district had applied to Waka Kotahi, the government's roading agency, for $105 million to maintain roads for 2021-24.
That was how much it took to keep the district's roads at their current standard, she said.
However, the council has been allocated just over $88m for the three years.
In a Zoom meeting attended by Waka Kotahi officials and council bosses, the road agency acknowledged lower than expected funding meant councils wouldn't be able to achieve the government's Road to Zero goals, Court said.
Road to Zero is a national strategy aiming to reduce deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand roads by 40 per cent by 2030.
''Waka Kotahi said they realised it will have an impact on deaths and serious injuries on the network. It's very frightening for us.''
The belt-tightening at Waka Kotahi came as the agency's funding — much of which came from fuel taxes and road user charges — now had to support rail and coastal shipping as well as roads.
As a result Waka Kotahi's finances were being ''stretched incredibly thin'', she said.
Other factors contributing to financial strain at the agency were cost over-runs in big projects such as Wellington's Transmission Gully and plans for a Waitemata Harbour cycle and pedestrian bridge.
Jeff Devine, roading manager for the Northland Transportation Alliance, told councillors the $88m allocated to the Far North was an increase on the $73m paid out in the previous three-year period.
However, it wasn't enough to make up for a sharp rise in the cost of road building and maintenance.
A factor leading to those escalating costs was Marsden Pt oil refinery deciding to stop producing bitumen.
The key road-building ingredient now had to be imported with contractors forced to pay a spot price determined by the market.
''It's a $17m-20m shortfall over three years so that will have a significant impact on what we can achieve. It's disappointing. We put so much effort into our improvement programme and now we're not going to be able to do it or meet public expectations.''
The Northland Transportation Alliance had also been told it would have to wait until September, months into the council financial year, for confirmation of roading budgets.
That posed problems for planning and could delay some projects, Devine said.
Steve Mutton, Waka Kotahi's regional relationships director for Auckland and Northland, said all councils were told on May 31 of their indicative funding allocations for local road and highway maintenance, public transport and road safety promotion.
In most cases Waka Kotahi could not fund the full amounts requested.
However, most councils — the Far North included — would get more money compared to the previous three years.
Although the $105.6m requested by the Far North for local road maintenance in 2021-24 was more than the $88m available, it was still a significant increase from the $73.2m allocated in 2018-21.
Similarly, the $5.3m allocated for road safety promotion was slightly less than the $5.6m requested, but was much more than the previous allocation of $3.4m.
The final funding amounts would be confirmed when the Waka Kotahi board adopted the 2021-24 National Land Transport Programme in late August, he said.
Court said she was also ''brassed off'' the planned four-laning of State Highway 1 south of Whangārei had been canned.
The Government had blamed budget blowouts and the need to reduce the transport sector's carbon emissions by focussing on rail, bus and cycle projects, but the decision had been made without consulting anyone in Northland, she said.
''The minister, with one stroke of the pen, took our projects away. I'm brassed off, on behalf of 170,000 Northlanders who need that four-laning.''